tv Q A CSPAN October 7, 2012 11:00pm-12:00am EDT
campaign 2012 web site provides live and on demand coverage of all the presidential and vice presidential debates, and it is the only place you'll see our live coverage of behind-the- scenes sights and sounds before and after the debates. each to the question is available as a separate clip, or you can search and watched by topic and watch were created clips and read streaming tweets from political reporters and other u.s. reactions at c-span's 20ing debate hub. go to c-span.org/debates. >> this week on "q&a," 12-time emmy award-winning morley safer discusses his long career with cbs news and his 40 years as a correspondent on "60 minutes." >> morley safer -- how have you changed your approach to information over the last 42
years of "60 minutes?" >> no dramatic difference in terms of reporting the news or doing interviews for the news or, really, even between doing what is construed as hard news versus feature stuff. the same rules apply. you try to get to the core, the core of the individual. i think really that is why we have an audience for the last 45 years on "60 minutes." i think it is precisely why people watch the broadcast. we have no or few access -- i do not think we do any at all. i think we are fair.
it is the fairness that is the attraction, unlike some much of what you see on cable, where fairness is the last thing people are being offered. to a certain audience, the last thing they want. >> we have a video from your office -- we took a camera there. i want you to talk us through than what the environment is, how long you have been there. you can see it on the screen. >> that is the lobby. we have a huge clock, which nobody really likes. that is the corridor of where the correspondence all live with their helpers.
>> is that in normal desk for morley safer read their? >> i confess it is probably neater than normal. >> why the big poster? >> the poster reflects a story i did 30 years ago. on the question of whether a major painting at the metropolitan museum was in fact a fake. it caused quite a controversy, and i had friends at the met who refused to speak for me for 20 years and have since come around. the painting is called "the pickpocket" or "the thief." >> there is a picture of you right there with your old colleagues.
>> ed was my next-door neighbor in the office. we went there before anybody else in the morning. we had a morning session over coffee. that was an award i got in california. >> how much time did you spend their? >> in the office? >> a lot more now. three or four years ago i decided it was not going to happen -- i was not going to have time. i did not succeed. i spend much more time than i really need to, but it is the habit. i do not need to tell you this. you have been getting up in the morning for 60 years, putting on a clean shirt and tie and going into an office, it is a hard habit to break. >> we saw you a minute ago
puffing on a cigarette. i understand that is not a real cigarette. >> it is not. >> but you had a how many years cigarette habit? >> i still have the electronic cigarette that looks like a real one and, to some extent, tastes like a real one. it is just pure nicotine, there is none of the junk or the tar in the regular cigarettes. the smoke you see is vapor. >> does it work? >> it certainly works in giving you a nicotine fix, absolutely does work, but there is still something about -- that is why it is called an addiction. >> this question is not fun to answer, but you have sat there and watched a whole bunch of
your friends die. >> i have. just in the last year, we lost any rooney, a few years ago we lost ed, lost mike, lost joe, a wonderful producer i worked with. these were the originals of "60 minutes." it has been a rough year. a couple of years. but i must say, having lost some of the stalwarts, the broadcast itself has not been effective. going from don hewitt, certainly the master of "60 minutes," died. jeff has maintained all the values and pretty much of the
unwritten rules of putting this broadcast on the air. >> when i started watching you 42 years ago, you were getting 30 million people watching "60 minutes." you were often the talk show of the week. you are now getting 10 or 11 or 12 million and are still on the top. what does that say? >> there has been an extraordinary revolution. the internet, and the whole cable community has obviously fractured the audience. i hear the figure of 60% bandied about, over 60% of over the air television, network television, has been lost. probably more than that.
the competition is extraordinary, but important pieces -- there is a piece, recently, as you know, about the operation to get osama bin laden. we got a huge audience for that. i think people turn to us in great numbers when -- in the history-making moments, certainly. >> may ask you a journalism question? those who saw it saw a reference to the man who wrote the book as mark owen, but everybody else in the country knew his name was bissonette? >> we consciously stayed with the original rules.
i do not know -- the precise details. i think that is actually not -- >> one thing i noticed the last four years -- i have never seen you do this -- my last count, you had 12 interviews with the president, mr. obama, since he got involved. i cannot remember you ever doing that many with a president. why so many with this one? >> quite honestly, because he said yes. there were no shortage of press for george w. bush. i do not think we ever interviewed with him. he may have been interviewed once. but there is always -- the rules of the game, to request an interview with the
president, whoever it may be. the obama people and obama himself like to get on the air. >> it has got a bigger audience than any other -- >> pretty much. you certainly get access to and engaged part of the population. >> do you ever worry about being the used? >> of course. you always worry about being used, but the presumption always is that at the same time you are using them. we're not going to be patsies for any administration, and i do not think we ever have been. >> i want to run video of don hewitt. how many years to do know him? >> i knew him from the very beginning of my life at cbs, 1964.
he was the executive producer of cbs evening news, the cronkite news, when i joined. shortly after he was fired, and was in a kind of limbo or siberia for a couple of years. i did a documentary for them in 1968. don was the nominal executive producer. so i have known him for a long time. when we came up with this idea of "60 minutes," he became a kind of willy loman. he put together a reel of all
cbs reports using 10 or 15 minute segments, taking the best of each of them and putting together a reel he went shopping that around to every executive at cbs. he brought that to me, to others, trying to sell and get support for his idea of this thing he called "60 minutes." he had harry reasoner, the original host in, call this a pilot if you like. then he added mike wallace into the pilot. it was his relentless pursuit. they said, ok, we will do it. we will try.
we will put you on at 6:00 on a sunday. so harry and i went on. later, harry left to go to abc and they brought me to be the other guy on "60 minutes." we were not a huge success at all. partly because 6:00 on sunday, football season completely wiped us out. they do a kind of 10-minute broadcast, and then they thought, have a news bulletin at the beginning, all kinds of experiments. then they try us on a different night. we went against something called "marcus welby," the most popular program on television.
then we settled at 7:00 on sunday. we took off like a skyrocket. the year was probably 1972 or 1973. >> what did you find that does not work? >> what does not work? don hewitt's first role, and i think he was absolutely right, is we do not cover issues, we tell stories. a major difference. >> did you feel that way yourself, or did you have to learn? >> without making myself self- important, i had done -- i had executive-produced a half-hour weekly magazine that went out on sunday night on at the cbc,
the canadian broadcasting corporation, called cbc newsmagazine . it was on the air for a good long time. i had produced, but was not on the air myself, i produced this broadcast and wrote most of it. so i actually believed in his theory before he articulate it. for the simple reason -- he would show you the script for an hour broadcast. the script is about two pages worth of information. you cannot do a lot on television. you have to know your limitations.
if you are going to cover issues, there is no way you can do an honest job of that. even in an hour, never mind 12.5 minutes. >> what is the longest interview you have ever done? i know you only use minutes of it in each piece, then all the stuff and it ends up on the cutting room floor -- do you remember? >> the longest -- >> when you talked and talked to get what you needed. >> probably a story that never got on the air. >> how often does that happen? >> not often at all. if the interview goes on and on and on, generally is because the subject is either totally inarticulate so you keep going and going into you get him to make some sense, or the answers are so clearly just
misinformation, and an interview can become -- it ends up creating more heat than light. >> you were born in canada -- where? >> toronto. >> what was the family like? >> we were lower working class. my father was an upholsterer, an immigrant, first generation from austria. my mother came from a family from london, a cockney girl. my father had been in the
austrian army and immigrated in 1912. my mother's family immigrated in 1910, and she was a seamstress. she came from a big family. they came over for 5 pounds -- for 5 pounds, the entire family could come. they were trying to encourage immigration. a brother and sister, i was the youngest, my brother and sister are still alive. >> how old are they? >> my sister is 86. my brother is 84, about to be 85. >> you were born in 1920? >> 1931. [laughter]
>> i have a list here -- they almost all worked to the end. don hewitt was 86, andy rooney was 92. walter cronkite went off the air when he was 65 and lived to be 92. it seems to me in the early days of broadcasting that never happened -- people were allowed to stay beyond 65. >> i cannot remember, do not remember precisely the rules, but if you are a contract employee -- staff executives had to retire at 55. there was an internal memorandum about that. contract people had no such limits.
all the guys pretty much had their marbles virtually to the end. certainly ed. don effectively left the broadcast probably when he was 84, something like that. 83 or 84. mike when he was 89 or 90. rooney right to the end. >> two weeks later. a video of don hewitt -- so that people can see what he looks like. >> who invented the ticking at the beginning of "60 minutes?" >> i did, but it was not at the beginning. it was a closing thing, ov the credits. the first show -- i said to myself, wait a minute, you have to be crazy to put that at the end.
it is more of a theme song. marvin hamlisch always accuses me of using the tick, tick to screw some poor songwriter out of a royalty. it just worked. it worked. >> what was his genius? >> the gut instinct that made him a great editor. >> did you ever quarrel? >> i do not think we had a screening -- i am overstating this, but pretty much most of the screenings there was a lot of blood on the floor. don believes in conflict. he had a passionate belief in conflict. the more you were challenged, the more he challenged you, the more you responded to his
challenge, the better the piece was. >> what impact did it have on you, personally? >> i could deal with it. i do not mind a conflict myself. >> really? >> don and mike, it was the same with don and ed as well. don was a tough editor, very tough, and some of his ideas were completely mad, crazy, wrong. but you could talk him down. that was the great -- for all of his sometimes crazy and garish behavior, you could talk him out of a really lousy idea. and he had a lot of lousy ideas. but he had some brilliant ones as well. >> go back to your upbringing -- how much schooling did you get?
>> i was not a great student. i got through high school, five years. the fifth year, fifth form, was kind of like a first year of college. you had to matriculate. it was like a baccalaureate. i scraped through. i was a pretty good athlete and got recruited by the university of west ontario. it was not an athletic scholarship. >> what sport? >> football. >> what position? >> i played halfback. it was not an athletic scholarship. i was encouraged to come. what they did, which was important at the time, is that during the football season you got full board.
so that was one way -- >> how long did you stay? >> i think three months. >> so you did not get a college degree? >> i did not. i did not even finish freshman year. >> so how did you get into the information business? >> i knew exactly what i wanted to do. i knew i wanted to be a journalist. like a lot of people of my era, i was hemingway-bit. i was always a great reader. a whole family of readers. i've only read hemingway's up to that point. he had been a foreign correspondent at "the toronto star." he covered the spanish civil war. i knew exactly what i wanted to do. i tried to get a job here --
all the big metropolitan papers just laughed me out of their offices. i went to a place called woodstock, ontario. the editor there, a wonderful man named ralph berman, he said to me on my first day, safer, you have no experience at all at this, do you? i said, yes sir, i have no experience. you cannot even tell, can you? he said, you will learn to type. once you type in any kind of proficient way, you know what the first you will be typing is? i said, i do not know. he said, a letter of application to a bigger newspaper.
i went from the woodstock paper to the london free press of london, ontario. that was in major metropolitan morning and evening. we have five or six editions in the paper. the days when papers put out five or six editions. they did everything. they would feature stories, breaking news, crime, overnight shifts. i had a lot of really good experience there. after a couple years, i applied to something called the commonwealth press fellowship, which was a -- you get to spend a year in britain working at one
of the national newspapers. "the times" "the telegraph" and "the guardian." i applied for that. they were taking people with ten or 15 years of experience. i had four years. but they liked my application that i sent them. they said, if you can get yourself to england, we will give you a job at a good paper. so i took my chances and went over and work for "the oxford mail."
that was a joy, to be working in oxford at that time. because, even though there is very serious separation between town and gown at oxford, between the university and an otherwise industrial city, one of the big car manufacturers add that time, there was a certain amount of drift between the two. it was great fun. i hung out with a lot of the -- all of the reporters there except for me were oxford graduates. i learned a lot. i learned a lot from them. a very good time. i came in on my day off. the editor was a man named to w. harford thomas. i came there to pick up my mail because it was my fixed address, i was moving from one rooming house to another. sometimes only half a day, but i had one day off a week. this was a saturday. i went to pick up my mail, and i
was wearing a t-shirt. it was a summer. when i picked up my mail, when i came into the office the next day there was a note in my pigeon hole from w. harford thomas that said, mr. safer, we at "the mail" generally prefer dark clothing. >> if it had been a dark t- shirt, you would have been alright. >> he meant -- and certainly not with a pink tie. >> there are always those moments in life that make a difference and change everything.
what was the first one for you? >> certainly the day -- i was back in canada. it was the end of the year of 1963, 1964. they brought back the foreign correspondents. i have been the bureau chief in london for cbc. they brought us back for the year in review broadcast which all the networks did. i was with four or five other correspondence, from paris, bonn, moscow. these roundtables. we did the broadcast. we stayed on after the broadcast for maybe a week or so, and just before i went back
to london i got a call from the cbc representative in new york who said, i should not be telling you this, but i just got a call from cbs and they would like to talk to you. i said, what about? they said, that is all. can you fly to new york? so i did. i walked in to see the news editor. they said, we would enjoy for you to come to cbs. you must remember, this was a network that created broadcast news, radio first, then television. it was being asked to join the pantheon. it was remarkable. i was knocked out by this -- do
they really mean it? am i good enough? i said, how did you even know about me? they said, one of your correspondents on the year-end show sent us the broadcast. >> what was that? >> it was something that preceded the video tape and was essentially a camera shooting off of the screen. it was pretty grainy and unwatchable stuff, but it looked good at the time, i guess. a guy who was our u.n. correspondent had applied for a job that cbs. they looked at the broadcast and called me. i called a couple of people i knew at cbs.
one person who i met covering the middle east -- i asked him, should i do a? i called jack chancellor at nbc. i said, jack, should i do it? he said yes. it is a hell of a lot better than nbc. jack was a great guy. if you ask what changed my life, that moment, it certainly was that. >> i have a review of douglas brinkley's book on walter cronkite in sunday's "washington post," september 9, 2012, written by robert macneil. another canadian? >> canadian. >> you are still a canadian?
>> i am dual citizenship. >> his first paragraph -- for anybody interested in the evolution of broadcasting, this is a tremendous read. tv journalism's most tremendous phenomenon, walter. do you agree? >> absolutely. walter got very tired of being described as the most trusted man in america. he knew he should not be. i say that with affection. but walter exuded accuracy, decency, fairness, and i think that this resonated out there.
here is a guy who really was level with you. he was not holding anything back. at the same time, he was not engaged in hyperbolic reporting our conversation or interviews. a patriot in the best sense of the word, someone who loves his country so much that he wants to expose its weaknesses. i think that resonated. although we always talked about him being, to his face, about being the most trusted man in america, at the time i guess he really was. >> a lot of people say, what is patriotic about showing shortcomings?
you know there are a lot of people out there -- they have emailed you. they do not like that. >> i know. i do not think they understand the meaning of the word. who said patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel? dr. johnson or something like that. that kind of an excessive patriotism, that is a false kind of patriotism. it is not wanting to hear the truth, a total phony patriotism. i think that there has been so much of that flying around in these last few years in particular, particularly since 9/11. quite honestly, it makes my skin crawl. >> how much of it to you listen to?
>> that is interesting. i am not giving away anything politically about my family or my wife -- we were watching the conventions. my wife, at one of the conventions, said, i do not want to hear this, i do not want to hear this. i said, you have got to hear this. you cannot sit in front of a television set in the political season and not want to hear what the other side has to say. then you become like them. i am not giving away anything politically. >> i know you are not -- i want to back to your interview style. we have not talked for 22 years, when you had a book about vietnam and your experience there. we talked about the whole
situation you had where you were accused of being a communist. i wrote down, when i looked back at it, the quote from you -- "i am a conservative on most issues." >> i am a conservative on most issues. >> over the years people have thought you were just the opposite. what do you say to them? >> most people who get up their dander over this, there is not much point in saying anything because they do not want to hear it. but i tried to explain that i am a conservative in most things, or, a very old-fashioned liberal in the old british, i will not suggest the imperial britain, the white man's burden
and all of that business, but an old-fashioned liberal who has been very conservative views in terms of fiscal policy. i think the word conservative has been given a really bad name by some of the crazier elements of the right in this country. what ever happened to conservatives like nelson rockefeller and those guys, who were among the most patriotic americans? the essentially they were working as politicians to make this a better country, and the other thing -- you got me going here -- the other thing that drives me completely nuts is
all of these candidates who are running not as politicians, they will point to the opposition and say, here is a politician, i am a, whatever. politicians are how countries work. the best moments in this country were moments designed and created by politicians. it is a good, positive word. how did fall into such disrepute? that is what really drives me nuts -- the destruction of language, making really useful words become inappropriate. >> let me show you some video tape of a young lady by the name of michelle fields who was a guest on this program. she is a lot younger than both of us.
she is about 23 years old. she was educated at pepperdine university. she is working for "the daily caller." i want you to hear what she says from her perspective on journalism and get your reaction to it. >> i feel as though twitter and facebook have enabled people who maybe are not in the media and not have a loud voice to become one of the loudest voices in the media. we see people like matt drudge who has no connection to the media, is a political outsider, and look how far he has come. he took advantage and saw the potential of the new medium, the internet, internet journalism, and his voice is just as loud as the media establishment. >> reaction? >> appalled. i am appalled.
i do not know quite what she thinks -- this is a good idea? >> she does. >> i think it is a dreadful idea. good journalism, good reporting must work in the constraints of great editing. it has to. i ran into trouble a few years ago, giving a speech at some award in canada. i was talking about so-called citizen journalism. i said i would trust it as much as i would trust the citizen survey. you need to work in certain disciplines. the matt drudges and many of these others give the real thing a very bad name.
now everybody is on the internet, and one of the problems i had was the internet, in terms of -- everything looks as valid as "the new york times." the typeface, the way things are set up, when you are reading somebody who believes aliens are out to get us, or reading somebody from the op-ed page of "the new york times," it all has the same look, has the same visual sense. i know i seem like a neanderthal when i say this, but i am appalled by half of the stuff that i see on the internet. >> one of the things i want to ask you about -- the brinkley book on cronkite, we learn a lot about his personal politics
and his involvement, even asking robert kennedy to run for president during the war. there was a lot of resentment on the part of conservatives, what ever you want to call the right wing, that there is an agenda. so- do not think walter's called agenda ever got expressed in his reporting. i really believe that. and i know that. >> what about the vietnam statement? >> that vietnam statement -- he openly stepped aside from his traditional role and made a personal statement. there is not -- that was,
believe me, walter really sweated that. he really did a slot that. >> in what way? >> at the way, and i doing the right thing here? >> did you talk to him before you did it? >> i did not. i talked to him a lot about it afterwards. >> you had a similar -- the cam ne incident, the burning of the village by the marines in 1965. people think that might have started a trend against the vietnam war. >> i never said that. people blame me or criticize me for it. i do not believe -- when the country started turning against it, when the country turned against the vietnam war, was when casualties were reaching
100 week in terms of killed. and the people being killed were the sons of middle-class americans because of the draft. that is when the country turned against vietnam. >> what about today and afghanistan and iraq, with a volunteer army. you rarely see a new york city manhattan person killed. >> because -- think of all those commercials that went out on every broadcast, in particular sports broadcasting, join the army, join the marines, join the navy, get an education. they never said go to war -- they said get a degree. how appealing is that to a young guy with ambition but who can in no way afford college? you do a few years in the
service, get under way, get a life. that is the way the military service was offered up. it was a huge dose of patriotism as well, of course, but -- so i do not think my story had any particular effect. i do not think walter's story had that much of an effect, honestly. it was when the casualties start to get over 100 a week, the sons of middle-class families were being lost, that is when, never mind the students protesting, when their parents started to protest. when vietnam in effect was a lost cause. >> what is your take on the iraq and afghanistan coverage?
>> there virtually is no coverage. except when something really horrible happens. to most americans, quite honestly, it is what war? most americans are not effected by this. it is the sons and daughters of working-class americans, pretty much, and people whose families live below the poverty line. >> why no coverage? >> why no coverage? because the sons and daughters of middle-class -- plus, also, not that vietnam was an easy war to cover, but it was a piece of cake compared to covering the
kind of war that is going on in afghanistan and was going on in the -- and to some extent is still going on in iraq. we took lots of risks and vietnam, but not the kinds of risks that people have in afghanistan an iraq. >> let me ask you -- >> let me -- vietnam was a civil war compared to this kind of thing. >> what you mean by that? >> there were no suicide bombers, cars been blown up. people were too -- in saigon, the years i covered the war, too civilized. >> civilize for who? >> both sides. compared to what is going on.
>> i started to ask you about your interviewing style -- most of your stuff is not war- related. is that your choice? >> yes. largely my choice. i like doing stories that no one else is doing. so i like, in terms of prime- time television, so i do a lot of stories that would come under a rather broad umbrella of the arts. >> i want to show a segment of you -- i know that as a big thing. >> almost 20 years ago we
broadcast one of the most controversial stories in our 44 years on the air. it was called "yes, but is it art?" i was accused of being a philistine, somebody lacking the ability to appreciate the challenging nature of contemporary art like these floating basketballs or another artist dripping plastic. these works are now worth hundreds of millions of dollars. in fact, contemporary art has become a global commodity, just like oil or soy beans or pork bellies. there seems to be no shortage of people wanting to speculate in it and no shortage of billionaires wanting to invest in it as a haven for their cash or a status symbol. there are not art fairs virtually every weekend around the globe. in contemporary art, none are
more important than when we went to in december. >> what made everybody so mad? >> i discovered something i could barely believe. when you question someone's taste in art, it is more personal than the politics, religion, sexual preference, something that goes to the very soul. you bought that? it is remarkable. >> do you still paint? >> not enough. it is one of the things i keep -- i have space to do it at home.
i have all the materials to do it, but i am lacking the focus of being able to separate my work from my other life. that is one area in which i am weakest. >> if we saw you in your personal life, doing things that you enjoy more than anything else, what would we see? >> well, there are two kinds of enjoyment. there is the tortured kind, writing, but there is no greater kick, i find, than writing something, and no greater torture at the same time. it would be writing something or drawing and painting. >> what can you tell us about your wife? where did you meet her? >> i met her when i was london bureau chief.
i remember the day, july 4, 1968. cronkite and betsy, walter and a betsy cronkite were coming to london. i cannot remember why. i had been invited to a july 4 evening. a friend of mine, the husband was american, the wife was british. the fellow -- walter had called and said, i met walter at his hotel. i said, i have to go to this party in north london. i'll meet you at the restaurant. i went to this party and there
was a young woman who was a graduate student studying at oxford, an american, who was a cousin of the family giving the party. she seemed pretty bright and was very beautiful. i said hey, do you want to have dinner? would you like to have dinner with walter cronkite? she said, who is walter cronkite? my wife is an anthropologist. she spent a few years living with a tribe of indians in colombia. she was not clued into what was on television. and that was it. i had a bentley, an old bentley, a convertible with a rumble seat.
which in british automobile parlance is called a dickey, the rumble seat. so we picked up cronkite, who got in the rumble seat in the open car. he had a lot to drink that night. they were great fun to be with. when we finally ended the evening, which was at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, driving walter to his hotel, we went past buckingham palace. then, there was no security around. now all the roads are blocked. no security -- the guardsmen out front. walter insisted that i do a few circles around buckingham
palace. he got up and did his impersonation of the queen. the only witnesses were the two guardsmen outside of buckingham palace. >> how long did you date before he married? >> that was july 4 and we were married on october 28. >> who is sarah alice ann safer? >> she is our daughter, who had a very brief career in journalism and had another career. at the moment she is busy raising twin 6-year-old girls and a 10-year-old boy. >> what marks do you give yourself as a grandfather? >> very low. i was not a great father. i was away for some many of those years when she was growing up. that is something i regret. i feel deep regret about it.
that i chose not to spend more time with her. >> what you think about your legacy and your papers and all that? does it matter to you? >> i think about it a little bit. i am not obsessed by it. i think -- i think i have made a contribution, more than some, less than many others. i think to the extent that -- i tried to make interesting use of this medium of television, which is a difficult medium to work in because of the time
constraints, simple as that. as i said before, look at an hour-long television broadcast, you'll find a script that will not even cover two pages of "the new york times." >> to have papers and videos -- >> i have papers and some videos, and i am giving them to the university of texas, which has a wonderful archive of american journalism and american history. walter cronkite is giving his papers. andy rooney has. many of the giants of journalism have given their papers there. >> a quote from our interview 22 years ago -- you said, writing the book you had written in 1989 was very satisfying. then he said, i would like to